Twitter..Life in 140 Characters or Less

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Twitter. Twitter. Twitter. Hopefully by now, you’ve heard all about it. News on Twitter (the free microblogging service that let’s you send 140-character messages on whatever you want) is everywhere. It’s as if the media has twitter diarrhea because lately it’s all they are talking about. Reporters from all across the country are joining Twitter in droves and writing about their experiences like David Pogue of the NYT.

Now the media discussion has changed slightly from “hey, there’s this new service called Twitter” to it’s impact on the world of journalism. As Reuters reports, “News organizations are all a-twitter about Twitter: Is it a friend or a foe? Should it be embraced or eschewed? Will Twitter kill journalism or revive it?”

And then you have media outlets like the Financial Times that are trying to teach their readers about the culture and language of Twitter. You know, twitter messages are called “tweets.” The peeps who sign up to read your messages are “followers.” And when you send out someone else’s tweet, you are “re-tweeting.”(This is easily done by addressing your message to a follower by adding an “@” sign to their name, i.e., @faraichideya.)

And as interesting (or not) as this whole conversation about what Twitter is, the better question to ask is why are people using it? Why has Twitter caught on?

The media’s recent discussion and “discovery” is quite amusing to several of us (myself included), who has used Twitter for six months or more (called early adopters) because it used to be a new tool. There was something special about discovering it. Twitter’s long-time users have several reasons for loving and using the free, web-based service.

Like a lot of users, Danyel Smith (@danamo), editor of Vibe, (who I am a big fan of) started using the service because she was curious about it.

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Others like novelist/music journalist/cultural critic Touré (@ToureX) thought it could help his professional writing skills.

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BTW, he doesn’t really need any help in this area but it’s somehow endearing that he is continuously thinking about and working on his writing. It makes us think he is just like the rest of us, which is one of the beauties of Twitter. Unlike traditional media, which tends to be top-down or a one-way means of “them” telling “us” as readers something, Twitter creates a one-on-one conversation where anyone with a Twitter account can join in the conversation. It’s about two-way communication. Several journalists even started asking their Twitter followers if there were questions they wanted to ask in an important interview. Thus, it’s revolutionizing the way journalism is being done.

Many folks are joining because their favorite celebrities are on Twitter. There are few places in the world where you can talk to TV and movie stars like Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and his wife Demi Moore (@mrskutcher)… and they might talk back. Twitter has given regular folks yet another window into the daily lives of stars through their Twitter streams. You can find all sorts of celebs from Britney Spears (@britneyspears) to Puff Daddy (@iamdiddy) to MC Hammer (@MCHammer) to Omarosa (@omarosa). They are all there – tweeting away!

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Gawker even started tracking Twitter accounts with their daily posting of the Twitterati. It’s hilarious and a reminder that people are broadcasting their thoughts out onto the Internet for anyone to read (unless you adjust your privacy settings). And now, a person’s tweets (Senators, writers, TV stars and regular people) have somehow become the news and fodder for the media? Interesting flip!

And there are thousands that are just like me, who also use Twitter because it helps us connect with people – new and old friends. It even helps you meet like-minded folks. Whatever you are into, there is someone on Twitter that likes the same thing. (And you can use Twitter’s search site to find posts on your favorite subject.)

Twitter also keeps you informed and quickly (if you follow the right folks). And you don’t have to check thousands of news sites or even go to a RSS feed service. If you are following @CNN or @Drudge_Report or other media sites and the reporters that have recently hopped on-board, you will be definitely be in the know. And if you downloaded Twitterific or Tweetie for your iPhone (or Twitterberry for your Blackberry), you have these conversations and breaking news at your fingertips.

And obviously, if you have something interesting to say or sell, you should be using Twitter. Except beware, no one likes a constant self-promoter. The Twitter world is all about the give and take of information… you know, sharing. It feels like a conversation (although at times a bit scattered), but a talk nonetheless.

The merits of Twitter and its impact on media will be debated for years to come. But with technology giants, like Google (@Google) joining the Twitter fray, isn’t it time you checked it out for yourself. Don’t take my word for it or the thousands of media folks ranting or raving about it. See for yourself.. You may become a Tweetering fool that neglects their Facebook account for a bit (or is that just me).

Note: post also appears on HuffingtonPost and Pop+Politics




CB’s Green Report: Begin Anew in 2009 with Green Resolutions

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Looking to make some green resolutions in 2009? The Daily Green and the National Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Simple Steps have developed a great list of 15 green resolutions. Although many of us may think it is difficult to go green, the site suggests simple to-do’s like recycling and reducing the number of mailed catalogues (through CatalogChoice.org). And while drinking more water is good for the body, the disposable plastic water bottles are not. According to NRDC, “it takes 26 bottles of water to produce the plastic container for a one-liter bottle of water, and that doing so pollutes 25 liters of groundwater.” So, instead of buying plastic bottled water, a suggested resolution is to buy a reusable water container. Of the 15 items listed, there should be at least a couple that are easy for you to implement in 2009.

Bush helps the environment. (No, I’m not kidding.) According to a recent New York Times article, President Bush “will designate vast tracts of American-controlled Pacific Ocean islands, reefs, surface waters and sea floor as marine national monuments on Tuesday.” This presidential action will limit mining, fishing, oil exploration and other commercial activities.  The protected zones, which include a total of 195,280 miles (bigger than Oregon & Washington combined) are home to hundreds of rare fish and bird species.

“With the designation of the world’s largest marine reserve in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in 2006, and now these three other sites, George W. Bush has done more to protect unique areas of the world’s oceans than any other person in history,” said Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environmental Group to the New York Times.

And luckily for environmentalists, this presidential action doesn’t require Congressional approval. Yippee!

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Alert: Bush Administration Hasn’t Protected Marine Mammals?? Contrary to his recent presidential order to protect marine waters, the Bush Administration has failed to provide “protections required by law to more than a dozen marine mammals potentially at risk of death or injury due to commercial fishing,” according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.  The congressional investigators examined the National Marine Fisheries Service and found that out of 30 marine mammals, which are protected under federal guidelines, the agency had not provided expert teams to protect them 14 of them. These animals, such as endangered whales and dolphins, are getting caught in fishing gear and traps. Hey Bush, you need to protect the marine waters and the mammals too!

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Flying a plane using algae fuel? Yes! On Wednesday, Continental Airlines became the first U.S. commercial airlines to make a flight using alternative fuels derived from algae and jatropha plants. In this case, the Boeing 737-800 ran one  of its two engines on a mixture of half biofuel and half regular jet fuel. The demonstration flight lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes and didn’t have any passengers. Although use of biofuels for commercial planes is said to be years away, this trip was a “flight” in the right direction.




Six Apart Offers Bailout Program for Journalists — Including Me

With the economy in serious trouble, automakers and financial institutions are seeking a government bailout. And the banks and financial folks got one to the tune of $700 billion. Well, The New York Times recently reported that Six Apart, the maker of Moveable Type blogs called TypePad, has created a bailout program of their own: “The Journalist Bailout Program.” (Spoiler alert—they interviewed me!)

The new initiative is designed to help journalists who recently lost their jobs get back on their feet. Once accepted into the program, Six Apart will give 20 to 30 individuals a TypePad pro blog with full technical support (worth about $150 a year), inclusion in its advertising program (which is an opportunity to earn money) and his or her blog featured on Blogs.com, a blog aggregator site. Six Apart’s Moveable Type software and platform is used by some great sites like Barack Obama’s campaign site, The Washington Post, and NPR—just to name a few. This is a huge gesture and generous offering for struggling journalists who may need both financial and technical help to start blogging.

About a week or so ago, I saw a Tweet about the program. (I’m a bigger Twitter user and advocate.) So, I immediately clicked on the link and saw blogger and Six Apart vice president, Anil Dash’s, blog post about the opportunity.

(more…)




Obama Wins: Nov. 5th U.S. Newspaper covers


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

I created a slideshow of several Nov. 5th newspapers covers of President-Elect Barack Obama’s historic win. Check it out. And if you still want to see more covers, click here.

Smooches,
The Caramel Bella




Caramel Bella’s Green Report: The Post Election Report

Now that Obama has been elected president, environmentalists worldwide are wondering if the planet will benefit. Andrew Revkin of the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog is concerned about the world’s population growth and resources. He has requested proposals from the public on how Obama can help the planet on a limited budget.

While others are wondering if Obama’s plan to help the Big 3 Detroit automakers invest in fuel-efficiency research and develop a new generation of clean cars. His idea would cost $3 billion dollars over 10 years. Obama is also calling on more plug-in hybrids. Can Detroit automakers meet the challenge?

Green Congress? Most environmentalists seem to think the world will get a bit greener with Barack Obama. But how green is the newly elected Congress? After all, the prez has to get his bills through both the Senate and the House. Some key Senate additions for green initiatives are Tom Udall of New Mexico, Mark Udall of Colorado, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who took seats from Republicans who opposed environmental measures. There were several House upsets (like Betsy Markey of Colorado) that may also help to change the balance of green power in Congress.

No green light for two California green propositions. Both Prop 7 and Prop 10 didn’t pass on Nov. 4 by 60% or more. Proposition 7 would have required California electric utilities to get half of their power from renewable sources by 2025. And Proposition 10 would have given rebate incentives to Californians who purchased natural gas or alternative fuel vehicles. Experts say many state residents found the initiatives ill conceived or too expensive.

And in other environmental news…

Fuel from fungus? Yes! According to a Montana State University researcher, a microorganism found in a South American plant contains a fungus with an essence of diesel. And this “myco-diesel” could power a whole bus without processing it all.

Thinking about buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle? Check out The Daily Green’s list of the most fuel-efficient cars and SUVs. It’s no surprise that the Toyota Prius came in first with 48 mpg in the city and 45 on the highway. But check out the rest of the list.

Also posted on Pop + Politics




Black Muslim Says Race, Not Religion, Is the Issue

He looks like most Americans (well, African Americans). And you definitely can’t tell he is a Muslim by his appearance. So, it would be difficult to target him based on his religion.

“I look like a regular black man in Washington, DC,” said Omari West, a 35-year old American Sunni Muslim. “Do I get targeted as a black man, now that’s another case?”

Although West acknowledges that religious bigotry against Muslims exists in the United States, he believes the primary issue is still race.

Some Americans still “cling” to the inaccurate beliefs that Sen. Barack Obama is a Muslim or was sworn into Congress on the Koran instead of the bible. And as shown in a recent McCain rally, there is a portion of the American population who believes Obama is an Arab. And they’ll shout it as an insult to prove it.

West, who was born into his Islamic faith, says the Arab slur is a cover for their true beliefs.

“It’s no longer politically palatable for people to openly admit that they don’t favor a candidate because of his skin color. [African Americans] have gone through a long hard battle in this country to win the right of dignity and respect, at least in the public square.”

West attributes the veiled use of the word, Arab or Muslim, as a code word for “other” or an even more derogatory word used against Black people.

“It’s more convenient and less controversial for someone to call Obama a Muslim then it would be to call him the n-word.” That’s how the coding works.

West explained how that process occurs in multiple unconscious, yet subversive, psychological steps.

First, to tarnish Obama’s reputation, his enemies use his name Barack Hussein Obama to distinguish him and thereby paint him as an “other.” In the senator’s case, all three of his names are easily associated with the Islamic faith, said West.

“The name, Barack Hussein Obama, is of east African derivation,” said West. “It’s Arabic.”

West says the next stage is “to paint him as an enemy by associating him with Arabic and Muslim extremists.”

Obama’s middle name has received a lot of media attention because of its similarity to the notorious Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Hussein, who committed violent acts against his own people, was a Sunni Muslim.

“All of the Arab talk is code word for his skin color and voicing disapproval as a form of racial bigotry, which can’t be openly discussed,” said West.

West, who is an American-born Muslim, thinks that the veiled Arab attacks against Obama are working. He thinks the focus on race can be shown in Obama’s wavering support among union workers despite their leadership’s endorsement.

West, a graduate of Columbia’s law school and its undergraduate journalism school explained:

“Usually democrats are pro-labor because of the economic issues. They push for higher wages, unionization, etc. As a result, union workers generally vote Democratic. There is a question now whether the rank and file members will follow behind the union leaders and vote for Barack. The argument could be made that people care more about racial and cultural issues than economic.”

A recent New York Times article points to race as a reason for Obama’s lack of support from union members.

“I think race is playing a major part,” said Mac Davis Slade, a political activist with the painters’ union, to the NYT. “I think that’s why some people say, ‘Isn’t he a Muslim?’”

Although race and religion are being used against Sen. Obama, West said it is part of the reason he is supporting him for president.

“I do think those reasons – his race, culture, name and experience – go into making him the person that he is today. They are not separate from what he brings to the table. However, the most important reason is I think he’s the most competent person for the job,” said West.

The owner of his own international economic consulting firm, West explained that Obama was his choice because of his leadership on several issues like the war. He also admired the Senator’s qualifications as a legislator and his impact on international relations if elected.

In terms of overall voting patterns for Muslims, West thinks they historically lean right on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage. However, in this election people of all religions will have to consider a hierarchy of issues, which include national security, education, civil rights and civil liberties. And on these political issues, West said Muslims lean left or Democratic. A 2007 Pew study confirms that only 11% of Muslims lean right or consider themselves Republican and 63% identify with the Democratic party.

“It’s not because we’re any less pro-life or in favor of gay marriage from a faith standpoint. There are other factors that our lives depend on in this race,” said West.

He hopes the next president sets a tone of tolerance, and encourages a sharing of ideas and strengths among people of difference. This leader would point to how the variation among faiths and traditions all come from the same source, God.

Quoting from the 49:13 verse in the Koran, West states, “We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other.” For him, this statement means we learn more about ourselves by encountering and understanding the “other.”

“We are all brothers and sisters under God,” says West, “we’re all viewed as equals.”

Note: also appeared on HuffingtonPost.com and PopandPolitics.com




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My Maltese puppy; lazy Sunday mornings; a day at the Beach; Yoga; breakfast anytime of the day; my gurls (and you know who you are); my family (I’m a daddy’s girl); making new friends; Los Angeles & Washington, DC; ocean views; Anguilla; healthy foods that don’t taste healthy; politics; "greenie" things; meditating; natural curls and movies.

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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